by Eli Clifton
Earlier this month, Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of billionaire Trump backer Robert Mercer, was listed as a member of the “Board of Governors,” of the Gatestone Institute, a New York City-based anti-Muslim organization that has long opposed the immigration of Muslims to the West.
Gatestone promptly scrubbed its website of any mention of its board members after LobeLog reached out to it on April 11 for comment. But an archived version of the website captured by Archive.org on April 9 shows Mercer’s name. A March 24 capture shows the list without her name, suggesting that she was added to the board at some point between March 24 and April 9.
Gatestone has served as a reliable source of anti-Muslim immigration hysteria. The Intercept’s Lee Fang catalogued some of Gatestone’s more outlandish claims in an article published in February in which he profiled the group’s president, Sears’ heiress Nina Rosenwald. Fang wrote:
Gatestone Institute produces a regular drumbeat of articles and punditry. The institute claimed that the Obama administration refugee policy “exposes Americans to the jihad.” Muslim refugees in Western countries are depicted in Gatestone Institute posts as rapists and hosts of “highly infectious diseases” that threaten the health of the German people.
Fang detailed how Gatestone senior fellow Salim Mansur attacked Barack Obama for “coddling Muslims” and praised Trump’s campaign pledge to ban Muslim immigrants. Another blogger, Nonie Darwish, wrote, “citizens from Islamic nations” should be allowed into the U.S. “only when the war on Islamic terrorism is won and when Islamic governments prove to the world that they have fundamentally changed.”
The Mercers must have liked what they were seeing from Gatestone. The family opened its pockets to support the Gatestone Institute over the past two years. In 2014, the Mercer Family Foundation contributed $50,000 to Gatestone.
Gatestone donor rolls acquired by LobeLog (viewable here) show that the Mercer family doubled its funding level in 2015, contributing $100,000.
Rebekah Mercer is known for her close involvements in projects funded by her family. An Atlantic profile of the Mercers, published in January, highlighted Rebekah’s interest in the family’s philanthropic activities. Rosie Gray wrote:
Whatever her actual beliefs, there’s one thing upon which people who have worked with Rebekah Mercer agree: She has a keen understanding of politics and likes to be involved in the day-to-day running of projects she’s involved in. Many donors like to play strategist, much to the annoyance of the actual strategists in their employ. But Mercer appears to be more successful at it than most.
Gatestone did not respond to an inquiry about whether the Mercers’ support and Rebekah Mercer’s role on the board of governors is connected to any new programs or initiatives at the organization.
This isn’t the first time that the Mercer family has aligned itself with fringe members of the right who advocate ethno-nationalism. White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon previously headed up Breitbart, of which the Mercer family were co-owners. The publication regularly published anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant articles under Bannon’s leadership.
When the controversial deputy assistant to the president, Sebastian Gorka, immigrated to the U.S. from Hungary, Gatestone published a series of articles by him as “Sebastian L. v. Gorka,” the initial “v” signifying his membership in the ultra-nationalist and historically anti-Semitic Hungarian order, Vitezi Rend. Bannon later hired Gorka as a national security editor at Breitbart.
Praise for Trump and a track record of opposing Muslim immigration to the West suggest that Mercer found Rosenwald and her colleagues, who include Gatestone chairman and former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton as well as fellow board member and retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, to be friendly to the Mercer family’s blend of libertarian economic policies and social conservatism.
Rebekah Mercer, who served on Trump’s transition team, pushed unsuccessfully for Bolton to be named secretary of state.
On Wednesday, The New York Times reported “Mr. Bannon’s main political patron, the financier Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of Robert Mercer, a major Trump donor, holed up in her office at Cambridge Analytica in New York, discussing possibilities for Mr. Bannon should he leave, according to two people briefed on the meeting.”
Although serving in no official capacity with the Trump campaign or the White House, Alan Dershowitz has emerged as an apologist for the administration and a willing adviser for Trump. Dershowitz publicly defended Trump’s reference to a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, acknowledged speaking with Trump about the administration’s efforts to ban immigrants from majority-Muslim countries, and slammed the Anne Frank Center for its recent call for White House press secretary Sean Spicer to be fired for his backhanded praise of Adolf Hitler in comparison to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Spicer said that even Adolf Hitler didn’t “sink to using chemical weapons,” apparently overlooking the use of poison gas to murder millions of Jews, as well as Roma and others, in concentration camps.
Dershowitz said, “I’m prepared to give a pass” to Spicer. But he bashed Anne Frank Center executive director Steven Goldstein as a “total phony” and described the Anne Frank Center as “a minor institution, no credibility within the Jewish community.”
With Mercer’s funding and membership on the organization’s board, the Gatestone Institute appears to be positioning itself as a hub for far-right anti-Muslim advocates and apologists for the Trump administration’s missteps in Middle East diplomacy, ant-Muslim discrimination, and casual adoption of Holocaust denial rhetoric.
Photo of Rebekah Mercer courtesy of Media Research Center